The World Health Organization has issued a statement after receiving a number of queries, expressions of concern and requests for clarification following the publication of a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) relating to processed meat and colorectal cancer. The report placed bacon, ham and sausages in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco, asbestos, arsenic and alcohol.

Gregory Härtl, a spokesman for WHO, told The Irish Times the original message from the report was “misinterpreted.”

“We’re not saying stop eating processed meats altogether. Do not cut out meats completely as it has nutrients,” he said. “But we do not want to do anything to excess. Research indicates reducing your consumption of processed meats can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.”

WHO issued a statement that read, “IARC’s review confirms the recommendation in WHO’s 2002 “Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases report, which advised people to moderate consumption of preserved meat to reduce the risk of cancer. The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

“WHO has a standing group of experts who regularly evaluate the links between diet and disease. Early next year they will meet to begin looking at the public health implications of the latest science and the place of processed meat and red meat within the context of an overall healthy diet. “

The organization also clarified its report on social media, Tweeting: ““Meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet”

On a blog post, the North American Meat Association said that the clarifications “further confirm NAMI’s position that the IARC report and comments from some of its panelists were an overreach and needlessly alarmist.”

Source: WHO, Irish Times, NAMI